The Environment’s Impact on Your Hormones and Fertility
By Joanne Aponte, ND • May 22, 2020
It is estimated that 1 in 8 couples will have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining pregnancy. Why is this happening?
While there are several known causes of infertility, 5-10% of infertility is unexplained. These unexplained cases are likely related to reduced quality of your eggs and due to the harmful effects that the environment has on your eggs and your hormonal system. Low quality eggs are less likely to be successfully fertilized by sperm. Then if that low quality egg passes the fertilization step, it might not make it through the next steps of implantation in the uterus. If this same low quality egg has genetic abnormalities (some which are caused by environmental toxins), it will not be able to successfully mature into a heathy embryo. The ultimate goal is to have a healthy baby and it all starts with a healthy egg!!
Some toxins are what we call endocrine disruptors. They disrupt normal hormonal rhythms and levels. Studies show that higher levels of exposure to these toxins are associated with infertility and other reproductive disorders. Examples of these endocrine disrupting chemicals include: BPA, Triclosan, paraben, phthalates, perfluroniated compounds (PFCs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), lead and mercury
Some of these chemicals interfere with normal estrogen production while others mimc estrogen and lead to a state of excess estrogen. Others, such as BPA and Phtalates are associated with a decrease in follicle counts and accelerated aging of your reproductive tract. Chemicals called parabens are associated with poor embryo quality. If an embryo is of poor quality, there is more risk of miscarriage. Some pesticides affect progesterone production and may be linked with luteal phase insufficiency, low progesterone levels and recurrent pregnancy loss. PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) have been associated with elevated risk of premature ovarian failure
The research is quite clear, toxins and chemicals in the environment harm the reproductive tract, lead to hormone imbalance and increase infertility. Unfortunately, these chemicals cannot completely be avoided. But don’t panic! There is much you can do to preserve your fertility.
Minimizing your exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals reduces damage to your eggs. Egg quality can be optimized!!
Here’s how to protect your hormones and eggs (aka future children):
- Reduce exposure to reproductive disrupting chemicals
- Increase omega 3 fatty acids – these omega’s help protect against the damaging effects of organic pollutants and reduce the inflammatory process triggered by these chemicals. Sources include: Fish (salmon, mackerel, cod, sardines, trout, halibut, herring), walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds and seaweeds (nori, natto)
- Drink Green Tea – the EGCG in green tea provides protection via antioxidant and anti-inflammatory pathways, it protects DNA and protects against PCB induced inflammation
- Sweat! – several of these chemicals such as BPA and phthalates are excreted via the sweat. Break a sweat at least 3 days per week. If you don’t easily sweat, consider doing infrared saunas.
- Increase your body’s antioxidant status – Antioxidants reduce the damaging effects of toxins on your body and eggs while simultaneously boosting the health and quality of your eggs.
- Co Q10 – studies use doses from 100mg all the way up to 600mg per day.
- Melatonin – works as a reproductive antioxidant and regulates circadian rhythm. Production naturally decreases with age. Multiple studies showed a statistically significant increase in number of mature oocytes and high quality embyros in women undergoing IVF. Increase melatonin naturally by minimizing blue light from devices in the evening, maintain a consistent bedtime/wake time, and sleep in a completely dark space
- Vitamin E – studies using 47mg of Vit E per day showed improvement in the time to pregnancy for couples with infertility (meaning it took fewer months for couples to conceive). This amount of Vitamin E is often a part of a good prenatal vitamin.
Consider a detox protocol before trying to conceive
I often start my patients off with a 3-4 week detox protocol to help the body eliminate more of these stored toxins in the body. It is geared at removing toxins that negatively impact the reproductive and hormonal system. Avoidance of these chemicals makes a huge difference, but in cases of infertility and other chronic illness, we may also need to give the body extra support so it can more efficiently eliminate toxins. A Detox protocol needs to be done 3-4 months BEFORE you try and conceive, so keep this in mind.
If you are planning to conceive in the future or have been having trouble conceiving, come in and see me. We will discuss whether a detoxification program would be a good first step towards improving your fertility and hormone balance.
In Health, Dr. Aponte
Dodge LE, Williams PL, Williams MA, Missmer SA, Toth TL, Calafat AM, Hauser R. 2015. Paternal urinary concentrations of parabens and other phenols in relation to reproductive outcomes among couples from a fertility clinic. Environ Health Perspect 123:665–671; http:// dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1408605
Dodge, L. E., Williams, P. L., Williams, M. A., Missmer, S. A., Toth, T. L., Calafat, A. M., … Hauser, R. (2015b). Paternal urinary concentrations of parabens and other phenols in relation to reproductive outcomes among couples from a fertility clinic. Environmental Health Perspectives, 123, 665–671. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1408605.
Thomas, P., & Dong, J. (2006). Binding and activation of the seven-transmembrane estrogen receptor GPR30 by environmental estrogens: A potential novel mechanism of endocrine disruption. The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 102, 175–179. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2006.09.017.
Craig, Z.R., Singh, J., Gupta, R.K., & Flaws, J.A. (2014). Co-treatment of mouse antral follicles with 17b-estradiol interferes with mono- 2-ethylhexyl phthalate (MEHP)-induced atresia and altered apoptosis gene expression. Reproductive Toxicology, 45, 45–51. doi: 10.1016/j.reprotox.2014.01.002.
Pan W, et al. Selected persistent organic pollutants associated with the risk of primary ovarian insufficiency in women. . Environ Int. 2019 Aug;129:51-58. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2019.05.023. Epub 2019 May 17.
Refaeey, A., et al., Combined coenzyme Q10 and clomiphene citrate for ovulation in clomiphene-citrate-resistant polycystic ovary sydrome. Reprod Biomed Online. 2014. 29(1): 119-24
Zhang M et al. Melatonin protects oocyte quality from Bisphenol A-induced deterioration in the mouse. J Pineal Res. 2017 Apr;62(3). doi: 10.1111/jpi.12396. Epub 2017 Mar 1.
Ruder, EH., et al., Female dietary antioxidant intake and time to pregnancy among couples treated for unexplained infertility. Fertil Steril. 2014. 101(3): 759-66
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.